We’ve all spent way too much time streaming our favourite movies and TV shows throughout the pandemic. But long before we heard the word Covid, binge-watching has been a pastime that keeps us occupied when we’re bored, in need of a laugh or cry, or when we just want to laze around doing nothing much. What you might not realize, however, is that a lot of the shows and movies you watch were filmed, at least in part, right here in your own backyard. Here are 16 popular TV shows and movies that were filmed in TO.
Director Guillermo del Toro might be from Mexico, but he loves The Six. He was quick to choose Toronto and the surrounding area as the backdrop for his Oscar-winning movie, Shape of Water where you can spot iconic landmarks like Lakeview Diner and the Elgin Theatre. However, the set designer’s ability to bring the director’s imagination to life is a stand-out feature of this movie.
This sci-fi thriller starring three super-hot superstars, Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale takes you into a dystopian world oddly shot in Toronto. Familiar sights include the Gardiner, Roy Thomson Hall and the secret, Lower Bay Station. What looks like home to us was transformed, thanks to the clever set designers who created a futuristic other worldly backdrop.
You can kind of see why location scouts might have found our city so intriguing with historic sites that included Casa Loma, the Distillery District, Osgoode Hall and the Danforth Music Hall. Toronto’s most prestigious, historic landmarks feature prominently. But the set design is what captures the jazzy age of the roaring 1920s in this movie.
Switching gears to TV, this addictive TV series was shot mainly in the very trendy west end including Queen Street’s Graffiti Alley and throughout Parkdale. However, the set designers had to switch things up, creating multiple sets as the backdrops for the multiple characters played by Tatiana Maslanys.
This Netflix superhero series focuses on world-saving with a healthy dose of dysfunction. Shot in Allan’s Garden’s greenhouse and areas of Queen East, Toronto, set designers take the eclectic route, creating the perfect backdrop for a new generation of would-be heroes.
This one is a little more obvious since it is a Toronto production. The sitcom focuses on parenthood, and the reality of working moms. Some hot spots featured on the show include the Colette Grand Cafe, The Broadview Hotel, both the Rooftop bar and The Civic, and Flock restaurant. However, it’s the mess behind the walls that set designers so accurately capture for this show.
Another obvious Toronto production, this typical Canadian skit show has a Kids in the Hall Vibe, but with funny women. It’s not hard to spot Kensington Market, Sugar Beach, Trinity Bellwoods Park, etc – and the creativity of the set designers has to rise to meet the challenge of new sets for every show.
If you spot a flash of red in your midst it could be the cape of a handmaid haunting the city’s streets, including Toronto City Hall. Set designers try to maintain a current look that rings true to present-day buildings, despite the futuristic tone of the storyline.
When you’ve got the likes of Will Smith on the streets of Toronto, you bet word gets around fast. This campy movie was filmed throughout the city including the Toronto Eaton Centre and Yonge-Dundas Square, Union Station, the Financial District and, of course, the secret Lower Bay Station.
But you knew that already!
Along with the original Degrassi series, both teen angst shows were shot in Toronto. The original also starred no other than our own Drake who at the time was called Aubrey Graham. From the natural beauty of Bluffers Park to the not so pretty Club Zanzibar, if you live here, you know it’s filmed here. Sets are pretty standard for Toronto homes and schools but range from trendy lofts to more down-and-out for the less privileged students.
Another campy, very funny movie filmed in Toronto. There’s no getting around that showdown scene where you can see the very recognizable CN tower despite the director trying to convince us it’s NYC. A major focus on the set design is the 70s refurbished basement and its iconic plaid couch.
We should probably be slightly offended that this movie tried to pull off our Distillery District as a WWII-era concentration camp. However, Casa Loma makes the perfect home for Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which was artfully created with a slightly steampunk vibe and lots of rich leather and Persian rugs.
This little sleeper rom-com is exciting for Harry Potter and Star Wars fans since two of the main characters are played by Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver. The settings and Toronto features in the set design show some effort was put into finding the spots real Torontonians might actually frequent including The George Street Diner, Rooster Coffee House, Riverdale Park and The Royal Cinema. Wallace’s eclectic “first apartment” pad and more up-and-coming “lofty” apartment for Chandry and her boyfriend contrast both ends of typical TO millennial homes.
This comedy follows a Korean-Canadian family and their Toronto convenience store. It reflects the multicultural nature of our city and contrasts the old and new generations’ experiences in a new country. The store’s exterior is actually Mimi Variety, located at 252 Queen Street East, in Moss Park. Set designers artfully capture the tight disarray of a typical corner store in the city.
Murdoch Mysteries is a detective show set at the turn of the 19th century in Toronto. It uses many of Toronto’s historic sites as the perfect balance for all the newfangled Victorian era TV and Movie Props that bring authenticity to the show. Sites include the U of T, Distillery District, Don Jail, Allan Gardens, Toronto Islands, Cabbagetown and Black Creek Pioneer Village. Although towns like Hamilton and Cobourg also figure prominently in the taping of the show, the Toronto sets with all their Victorian finery are mostly built in the city.